By Michael Mastarciyan
Six-foot-four-inches tall, blond hair, blue eyes, All-American chiseled Robert Redford good looks - all the necessary ingredients for a successful career in the world of fashion modeling.
But when you're not the type of person who looks in the mirror very often you usually don't end up making a living prowling the catwalks and runways of Paris, Milan and New York or gracing the pages of GQ.
That's why when Steven Nyman told me Spyder was flying him down to South America this summer to model in a photo shoot for their 2010/2011 skiwear line I was not surprised - after all, I was the writer who wrote: "...Nyman, who could probably have a successful career as a Polo Ralph Lauren model if he chose to..." in a story about the American racer for a Canadian ski magazine last year touting his fashion model potential and style sense.
"Spyder is making a big push at maximizing themselves as a brand. Their new slogan is "The Antidote." Spyder wants to be the antidote to whatever is making the majority of the world live sedentary lives. It is a cool project to be involved in, and they've fully turned to their athletes to help promote, develop and drive the brand. We were in Portillo, Chile shooting for the 2011-12 line and also for the 2011 Warren Miller Film. The majority of the team - old and new - was there. Daron Rahlves, Tommy Moe, Julia Mancuso, Chris Davenport, Julian Carr, Roz G, Colby West, Jake Zamansky and Jess McMillan. Each of us is the face of a line in Spyder. I am the man in the Quest Line which happens to be their most popular line. I would like to become more involved in designing the clothes like I have been with the race gear. Maybe one day I will have a signature line? I have to hit it big this year I guess," Nyman says.
Despite dreams of his own skiwear line one day, Nyman - who is one of the funniest and wittiest skiers on the World Cup tour - is quick to dismiss his modeling talent and any future fashion endeavours in his typical Nymanesque self-deprecating style.
"I'm not a camera guy. On the shoot I kept making funny mistakes like wearing clashing colors or looking the wrong way, puffing my cheeks out, biting my tongue stuff like that. It takes a lot of concentration which I don't have....oh and hiking up a steep face to make one turn for the camera - that sucks. I didn't realize how much work a photo shoot is. I am lucky to be a racer where they close the run off for us to go down as fast as possible. "
Unfortunately for Nyman, going down a race course "as fast as possible" has been impossible for the past two years. Nagging back pain and knee issues that resulted in double knee surgery last summer have - until this summer - kept the winner of the 2006 Val Gardena downhill from training and racing at full speed and consequently off the podium.
"This summer I finally had a full summer of training and am feeling good. My knees are still a little tender but they are so much better than last season. Last year I could only take four runs a day and this summer in New Zealand I was doing 12-14. It has been so long since good full training and so I still have a lot to work on. The main thing is I feel healthy and like an athlete again," Nyman says.
And "feeling like an athlete again" has enabled Nyman to spice up his off-season dryland training routine with some very exciting and intense outdoor activities.
"The Vail Valley Foundation, who puts on Beaver Creek World Cups and will put on the 2015 World Championships, also puts on the Teva Games. My buddy Ken Hoeve, Vail's local weather man, invited me there to Stand Up Paddle. The race went right down the center of the town on Gore Creek which is not too deep. We were fully padded like football players running down the rapids. A big group of Hawaiians came out and it was a legit race. The cool part was at the time I was there the announcement for the 2015 World Championships was made and Vail/Beaver Creek won. I also climbed the Grand Tetons near Jackson, Wyoming. I guided a bunch of scouts to the summit with my friend Bob Bills, a former freestyler from the Wayne Wong days. I thought we were in a bunch of trouble. I honestly thought someone was going to really hurt themselves, but nobody did. I dubbed it the "worst best trip" ever. It was one of those trips, where during it you are freaked and stressed out of your mind but then when it is done and everything is cool you say to yourself ‘that was awesome!'"
Finally, since the subject of Robert Redford has conveniently come up my in my description of Nyman, I ask the 28-year-old Sundance, Utah racer if he's ever seen "Downhill Racer" the seminal film on alpine ski racing starring and directed by one of his Sundance neighbours - Redford - in 1969.
"Yes, I have seen it," Nyman replies.
"And it's funny because we stay in the same hotel you see in the film when we go to Wengen.
I know Bob (Redford), because I grew up at Sundance, his resort. When I ski Sundance now, he gets excited that I ski there. When I was a kid it was exciting to see him ripping around in his old school tight stretch pants and his bandanas. But those guys were bad ass! The hills back in the day were so rough and the equipment looks like it hurt so much.
Eddie Waldberger, a former technician from the US team, among others, was the stunt skier for a lot of the film. The film portrays it being a lonely life, which it is in a sense, but it is nice these days with technology and the ease of communication. My sponsor Sprint gave me a world phone so I can call anytime anywhere, I think Bob called home twice in the film and one of the times they didn't pick up!"